How solar panels on farmland could help California fix its water and power crises

Los Angeles Times

Westlands Solar Park is a massive solar park being built in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley estimated to be a total of 670 MW.

Another noteworthy facet of the solar project is the identities of the buyers, at least the ones that have signed up so far.

One is the city of Santa Clara, which agreed to buy 75 megawatts. The other is Valley Clean Energy, a government-run “community choice” agency, or CCA, that serves the cities of Davis, Winters and Woodland, and parts of unincorporated Yolo County. Neither of those buyers is an investor-owned utility — you know, like Pacific Gas & Electric or Southern California Edison. As more local governments go the community choice route, the big utilities are increasingly being pushed out of the business of buying and selling electricity, prompting them to shift their focus to the poles and wires that move power around the state.

When a tidal wave of cities and counties started launching community choice programs a few years ago, skeptics were concerned they would be disruptive — and not in a good way. Thus far, those fears mostly have not come to pass. Severin Borenstein, an energy economist at UC Berkeley who worried early on that community choice could do more harm than good, now says the programs “are actually doing something useful” by providing competition in the energy marketplace. While he’s still concerned about the potential for bankruptcies — Western Community Energy in Riverside County became the first CCA to close its doors last month — he thinks the sector is in good shape.

“Now that this is a serious industry, they are starting to adopt serious industry practices,” Borenstein said.

Read more here: Solar on farmland could help California keep the lights on – Los Angeles Times (latimes.com)